May 28, 2020
Chief Walt Vasquez of the La Mesa Police Department has this to say:
The La Mesa Police Department works with our community to protect life and property while striving to enhance the quality of life of all our residents.
We are curious as to which of these laudable goals is in evidence in this facebook video:
What we see is one not very peaceful officer shoving around a citizen who, while justifiably angry over his disrespectful and violent treatment by the officer, makes no resistance. We wonder whose life or property was threatened by this citizen? Whose quality of life was enhanced by shoving him around?
Then, after all that aggression from the officer, he has the gall to arrest this poor man for “Assault on a Peace Officer.” Seldom has so much irony been packed into such a little code as “241-C.”
We see four failures here.
Failure to de-escalate:
We must dismiss our need for immediate resolution to all kinds of resistance. — Harry Hammer, Inside the Art of De-Escalation. Officers must learn to de-escalate situations, and not insist that citizens instantly comply with their every whim.
Hand in hand with de-escalation is that officers must learn to manage their own anger. Officers should not be shoving people around. We shudder to think what might have been done had there been no video cameras around.
Failure of Other Officers to Intervene
Several times we see a female officer step in to help restrain the innocent citizen who was the subject of this assault. NEVER do we see or hear her or any of the other four officers on-scene attempt an intervention with the Officer who is the aggressor. We are continually told by law enforcement that it is only a few officers who are “bad apples.” The point of a “bad apple” is that it spoils the whole bunch. When officers intervene when one of their fellows are losing it, they protect both the citizen and that officer.
Of course, some officers are simply too violent and too dangerous to be helped, and must instead be terminated.
What none of our local law enforcement agencies seem to understand is that there is no number of softball games and toy giveaways that can improve their relations with the community when there are interactions like this caught on video. Yes, we want to meet the chief and we’re glad when they are generous and helpful. However, all of us in the African-American community know that if we put one single foot one single inch wrong, we may be thrown around, beaten up, have our necks knelt on, and then arrested to add insult to injury. Assuming, of course, we even live to tell the tale.
When the City of La Mesa gets serious about improving the quality of life for its citizens, and gets serious about protecting its citizens FROM its police officers, the NAACP San Diego Branch stands ready to help.
Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch